Do you make more money than your husband? (Does he wish you did?) During times of financial stress, being in a two-income family can cushion the blow of one partner being laid off or having work hours reduced against his wishes. There are good reasons to make more money than your spouse -- or at least have a somewhat equal division of income.
Research on Wives Who Make More Money
A 2010 study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire found that the number of wives who make more money than their husbands increased more during the 2008-2009 recession than in a comparable period of prosperity, 2004-2005. Marybeth J. Mattingly and Kristin E. Smith studied changes in women's employment when their husbands stopped working, using data from the U.S. government's Current Population Survey for May of each year studied. Women were able to make more money by reentering the labor force and increasing their work hours, if they were working part-time, they found.
"We find that wives of husbands who stopped working during the recession were more likely to increase work hours, and more likely to commence or seek work," Mattingly and Smith wrote in an article published by Family Relations. "During the Great Recession years, the effect for wives entering the labor force is significantly greater than during the earlier years of relative prosperity."
The Great Recession
The recession that began in December 2007 took its toll on the U.S. economy and American workers -- to make more money became the exception rather than the rule. Between December 2007 and January 2010, the U.S. economy lost 8.4 million jobs and the unemployment rate soared from 5 percent to 10 percent. That means 15 million people were unemployed and another 12 million were underemployed or discouraged from looking for work. The average length of unemployment reached 29 weeks, a record high.
Still, women did better than men during the Great Recession, in part because female-dominated industries such as health care and education saw fewer layoffs, whereas male-centric fields like construction, finance and manufacturing were hit hard. Indeed, men suffered three-quarters of the job losses, meaning many families saw the woman make more money as a result.
"Many married women have increased their role as economic providers," Mattingly and Smith wrote in their article. "An unanticipated consequence of the recession is the increased number of families relying on wives' paychecks."
Previous research suggested that breadwinner wives were only a temporary phenomenon, and as soon as the husband could make more money again, families resumed traditional gender roles, they wrote. So their research asked the question whether wives were picking up the slack during the Great Recession.
Indeed, the researchers found that wives were likely to make more money. Their results included findings that:
- Stay-at-home-wives of husbands who stopped working during the recession were two times more likely to enter the labor force as those whose husbands stayed employed.
- When a husband leaves the labor force, wives were more likely to find jobs in 2009, versus less likely in 2005.
- Older wives were less likely to look for or find work in both time periods.
- Black wives were more likely than White wives to seek work, but demonstrated no difference in likelihood of starting a job. "This suggests that many Black wives found it more difficult to get a job in the Great Recession," they wrote.
Looking just at mothers who began to make more money than their husbands, they found that during both the recession and the earlier prosperous time, having more children increased the odds that a wife found a job, unless they were young. That actually made them less likely to look for or resume work.
As for part-time working wives, those who were better educated and those who were younger were more likely to boost work hours only during the recession. "Young children inhibited women's increased work time, as expected, given their needs and the cost of child care," Mattingly and Smith wrote.
Conclusions on Wives Who Make More Money
In conclusion, the researchers stressed that wives more urgently sought to make more money when their husbands lost employment during the recession. "Families are responding to the deep financial strain caused by the Great Recession with an increase in wives' labor force participation," they wrote. "We suspect the recession is pushing many women into jobs that they may not consider during times of prosperity."
"The current recession, with heavy job loss among men, has pushed many families to rely on wives as breadwinners to a larger extent than in the past," they concluded. "The Great Recession accelerated a trend that has been emerging over the decades, and in turn highlights changing gender roles in the family, equity in the workplace and work/family balance."
Source: Family Relations